English speaking Cameroonians boycott AFCON Trophy celebration
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon trophy tour celebration after their 2017 AFCON victory in Gabon appears to be backfiring in English-speaking regions of the country.
The trophy has been touring major cities in a government bid to bolster national unity, with President Paul Biya calling people to come out massively.
But the trophy got a different reception as it arrived in Bamenda in the northwest, one of the English-speaking parts of the country. Hundreds of youth jeered and booed. Most people boycotted the event.
Bamenda has been the epicenter of recent anti-government demonstrations kicked off three months ago when local lawyers and teachers in English-speaking regions went on strike.
The government has responded by cutting the internet to the region and deploying troops. At the trophy reception, youth leader Gregory Achu says the government’s response has made things worse.
“It is not moving. It is not moving. Things are not moving. We want internet back. We want peace,” he said.
English-speaking professionals have refused to work in the northwest and the southwest to protest what they say is the overbearing use of French in schools and courts. Cameroon’s constitution says the country is bilingual. While the government has made some reforms and promised others, it has refused to release dozens of people detained in relation to the unrest.
Violence escalated as strikers demanded a return to federalism. Pressure groups calling for the English-speaking regions to secede also joined the movement.
President Biya says the unity of Cameroon is non-negotiable.